This post is part of “The Pitch” series, which follows up with socially conscious creatives who submitted to the inaugural Benevolent Media Pitch Night competition in November 2012. (Read about all the winners and finalists here.)
Meet Chithra Jeyaram, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and the creative director of Real Talkies, a video production and film education consultancy. She was the $2,000 Grand Prize winner of Benevolent Media's inaugural Pitch Night, when she captivated judges and the audience with her proposal to build the website for 1001 Breast Cancer Nights, an online video portal to share, discuss and experience stories of breast cancer.
After discovering a benign tumor in her right breast at age 22, Chithra was inspired to create her recent project. She has lived and traveled the world documenting many social issues. She aims to increase global breast cancer awareness by making the interactive 1001 Breast Cancer Nights "an immensely powerful, empathetic and healing space.”
What is your project you pitched and why did you start it? Are you still working on your project and if so, what have you been doing to date?
1001 Breast Cancer Nights is still in its research and development stages. I have applied to two major funding sources, which will hopefully allow me to begin the filming phase of the project. Recently, I attended the Global Forum on Cervical Cancer Prevention on May 27, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference was eye opening. While there, I was fortunate to meet with key players in several organizations that are working on the ground tackling breast cancer and cervical cancer epidemic. I interviewed two international cancer survivors who will appear in an upcoming short video I am making to explain the importance of 1001 Breast Cancer Nights. I also had face-to-face meetings with key contacts who will function as liaisons in the first phase of filmmaking in India.
Do you have any requests for collaboration or calls to action? If so, what?
Yes, I am looking for a graphic or visual designer to help create a logo for 1001 Breast Cancer Nights.
What have you learned from your work thus far?
1001 Breast Cancer Nights is a truly unique project and I was shocked to hear about how misinformed people are about cancer, in general, and breast and cervical cancer, in particular. There seems to be is a dearth of ethnocentric, dramatic stories that demystify the disease and unravel its human experience.
Through my observations, it appears in most cultures men hold access to information and resources in many communities. In order for our work with 1001 Breast Cancer Nights to reach women, men need to play a large role in capturing and sharing their stories.
Since mobile technology has reached pockets of rural areas, allowing communities to be better connected to what is happening outside of their local communities, it is absolutely critical for us to use character-driven messaging in order to collect stories from local communities and to market our project. I was inspired by the clever work of the BBC Media Action. As the BBC’s division dedicated towards reducing poverty and improving global rights, one project in particular caught my attention. In Bihar, India, the use of mobile phones, messaging and characters are used to improve maternal health. I was also inspired by another BBC Media Action Project, 60 Second Messages, which discussed the importance of short, succinct PSAs to make an impact. I am in communication with key people at BBC Media Action in India to see if there are any possible collaboration opportunities.
Lastly, 1001 Breast Cancer Nights is a rather large project and it is moving at snail's phase right now. I have to be patient because at this stage it is very important to get more key collaborators on board so we can ensure more prominent global impact.
How have recent events involving gender violence shaped your perspective on the role of women in media?
We need tons of positive affirming content that portrays women not just as nurturers, providers, sufferers, sacrifices and objects of amusement. Gender violence is not a woman's issue; it is a societal flaw and hence we need media content that engages men actively as stakeholders in dealing with the problems and helping create solutions. Another project, Men We Cherish, is another collaborative project I am working on with a few other people - hoping to create and share stories about positive male role models in order to reduce gender violence.